James W. Holley, III
|James W. Holley, III|
|Mayor of Portsmouth, VA|
July 1984 – December 1987
July 1996 – July 2010
November 24, 1926|
Portsmouth, Virginia, United States
|Died||October 5, 2012
Portsmouth, Virginia, United States
|Alma mater||West Virginia State College|
|Religion||Christian (Fellowship Christian Church)|
James W. Holley, III (November 24, 1926 – October 5, 2012) was an American politician and dental surgeon. Holley served two terms as mayor of Portsmouth, Virginia. Both terms ended with his being recalled from office, making him the only known politician in American history to be twice recalled until Fullerton, California Councilman Don Bankhead was recalled in June 2012.
Holley was born in 1926. After graduating from Portsmouth's I. C. Norcom High School in 1944, Holley served in the United States Army during World War II, stationed in Camp Livingston in Louisiana. Following the war, he attended West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University), and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1949. From there he went to Washington, D.C. where he attended dental school at the Howard University College of Dentistry, graduating in 1955. He has also received an honorary law degree from West Virginia State. He attended college on the G.I. Bill. During a reception in the late 1950s, Holley met Virginia Union University student Mary Walker; the couple would marry in 1960.
Holley joined the battle for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s, and played an integral role in the desegregation of Portsmouth, winning court battles which allowed for the equal use of the city's libraries, hospitals, restaurants and golf courses. During the course of his involvement in the civil rights movement, Holley entertained Martin Luther King, Jr. at his home on multiple occasions.
Holley first served as a member of the Portsmouth City Council from 1968 to 1984, and was vice-mayor from 1978 to 1980. Upon his election in 1968, he became the first African American to serve on Portsmouth's City Council. He has twice held the office of mayor, first from July 1, 1984, to December 15, 1987, and again from July 1996 to July 13, 2010. Holley was also the first African American mayor in the city's history. His first term came to an end when he was forced from office following an expense account scandal, becoming the first Virginia politician in modern times to be recalled. Another factor in Holley's removal from office was his being linked to hate mail that was sent to community leaders.
In May 2008 Holley was re-elected as mayor, narrowly defeating challenger Martha Ann Creecy in the first contested mayoral election in Portsmouth since 1996. He was recalled for a second time on July 13, 2010. This second effort to recall Holley began in 2009 after an assistant made a confidential complaint of verbal abuse and of being required by Holley to perform his personal errands while working on city time. The complaint was subsequently leaked to the press. The accusations prompted the Portsmouth City Council to fine Holley $2,500 and ask him to retire, citing a pattern of mistreating subordinates. After Holley refused to retire, his opponents mounted a recall petition citing the allegations against him and alleging his inability to competently lead the city. The petition gathered 8000 signatures, which a judge deemed sufficient to force the ballot question of Holley's recall on July 13, 2010.
Though an Independent, Holley has backed both Democrats and Republicans running for office, including Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential bid and former Senator George Allen's 2006 re-election bid. He also made a campaign contribution to Barack Obama.
Holley drew criticism in 2008 for suggesting that Portsmouth needed a "black" hotel to act as a counterbalance to the "white" Renaissance Hotel. Holley was an early supporter of the Renaissance; his portrait hangs in the lobby, and the hotel's ballroom is named the "Holley Ballroom." He later apologized for the remark, saying that his words were "misconstrued" and "misinterpreted."
Holley died in 2012 after suffering a stroke. He was 85.
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